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Make Halloween Fun, Not Fearful
By Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW

Halloween can be an exciting, entertaining time for your children. But Halloween events may cause them to be unduly scared, even traumatized. By understanding what your youngsters can cope with, you'll be able to prevent them from being scared out of a good time.

Preschoolers are unable to clearly distinguish between reality and fantasy. Even some children in the early elementary grades are still wrestling with this understanding. You may do your best to explain that ghouls and goblins are "pretend," but the costumed monsters who appear at your door can seem very real.

Frightening masks, costumes, and sounds can terrify children at this age, no matter how quickly the scary masks are removed to reveal friendly, familiar faces. Don't challenge your young kids to "stop being afraid" or make them feel ashamed about their fears. Halloween should not be used as a test or a challenge of their emotional maturity.

Remember that your goal is to provide them with fun, not fear. There are many ways for your young children to enjoy Halloween. Just put yourself in their "emotional shoes" and then make plans for a great time.

Halloween Night
About a week before Halloween, get a sense of your kids' comfort and apprehension levels regarding the holiday. Ask them how they want to celebrate Halloween this year. Listen to their words, but also notice their body language -- do they seem anxious?

Check in again shortly before Halloween because a child's apprehensions may intensify as the big night draws near. Let your kids decide how involved they want to be at Halloween.

Here are some ideas for a happier Halloween:
Ask your children to hand out treats with you at the door.

Host or attend a non-frightening Halloween costume party with your children's peers.

Decorate a pumpkin together.

Watch the Snoopy Halloween cartoon special while feasting on special Halloween goodies.

Take your kids trick-or-treating at houses where you know they will be welcomed and not scared by the adults who open the door.

Do not expose young children to any inappropriate horror movies and videos.

Do not take them to a haunted house or a horror theme park. It is wholly inappropriate and unhealthy for young kids.

Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW is a family therapist, noted national speaker, and author of Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's


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